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essentialism Syllabification: es·sen·tial·ism
Pronunciation: /əˈsen(t)SHəˌlizəm/

Definition of essentialism in English:


1A belief that things have a set of characteristics that make them what they are, and that the task of science and philosophy is their discovery and expression; the doctrine that essence is prior to existence. Compare with existentialism.
Example sentences
  • It is a different phenomenon from philosophical or metaphysical essentialism.
  • For example, Pinker attributes opposition to genetically modified foods to innate and intuitive essentialism.
  • But essentialism about organisms has been undermined by Darwinism.
1.1The view that all children should be taught on traditional lines the ideas and methods regarded as essential to the prevalent culture.
Example sentences
  • Then essentialism was criticized as being too rigid to prepare students adequately for adult life.
  • For better or worse, essentialism is the quintessential American approach to education.
1.2The view that categories of people, such as women and men, or heterosexuals and homosexuals, or members of ethnic groups, have intrinsically different and characteristic natures or dispositions.
Example sentences
  • Extreme assertions of diversity, such as Kallen's, imply a kind of racial or ethnic essentialism and separatism, not merely cultural pluralism.
  • Some readers have discerned a strain of racial essentialism in his putatively social constructionist stance.
  • In fact, this is a very familiar problem in feminist theory: how to argue for a feminine specificity without falling into the trap of biological essentialism.



noun& adjective
Example sentences
  • There's a very prevalent, if essentialist, argument that if you burrow deep down inside yourself then you will discover your true identity whether it lies back in the hills of Wales or in the plains of Ethiopia.
  • I am not an essentialist who believes that people's behavior can be explained by some essential cultural or DNA trait.
  • Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialist past, identities are subject to the continuous interactions of history, culture and power.

Definition of essentialism in:

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